June 25: From Concern to Action
Nehemiah 9:1–10:27; 1 John 5:13–16; Psalm 111:1–112:10
When I approach God, I often try to persuade Him that I am worthy of something or that He should act on my behalf. But there is no reason God should act on our behalf—none is worthy of His intercession.
When we pray, we often need a change in focus. Ultimately, it’s not about our rightness or goodness; it’s about His. It’s about what He can do, who He is, and why we know He can do something about the situation we’re in. We should still be honest and open with God, telling Him how we really feel (even though He already knows), but instead of focusing on our own righteousness, we should focus on God and what He’s already done for us.
When I shift my attention to God and His goodness, many of my previous concerns fade. Before I even begin to pray, gratitude reminds me of God’s care and provision for me, allowing me to move from what I think matters to what matters to God.
Throughout the Bible, we see models of thankful prayers that emphasize God’s character. In the book of Nehemiah, the priestly group descended from Pethahiah (1 Chr 24:16) proclaims: “Stand up, bless Yahweh your God from everlasting until everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name that is being exalted above all blessing and praise! ‘You alone are Yahweh. You alone have made the heavens, the heavens of the heavens, and all of their army, the earth and all that is in it, the waters and all that is in them. You give life to all of them, and the army of the heavens worship you’ ” (Neh 9:5–6).
The people go on to recite God’s history of caring for them, focusing on His goodness and reminding themselves of His faithfulness when they (as a whole) had failed Him (Neh 9:7–37; compare Psa 111). They end their sermon with an agreement to honor God. They move from thankfulness, to God’s story, to agreeing to be part of His work.
By focusing on God, their attention shifts from ordinary concerns (Neh 7–8) to how they will respond to God. It’s this shift in focus that ultimately leads to righteousness. We also see this progression in Psa 112: the path of the righteous is marked by blessing God and acknowledging His work (Psa 112:1–2). After all, recognizing God is the solution to most of our problems.
How can you incorporate thankfulness into your prayer life? How can you do a better job of progressing from concerns to being part of God’s work?
JOHN D. BARRY
- In the four and twentieth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackcloth, and earth upon them. (And they that wre of the seed of Israel were separated from all the strangers) and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place and read in the book of the Law of the Lord their God four times on the day, and they confessed and worshipped the Lord their God four times. Then stood up upon the stairs of the Levites, Jeshua, and Bani, Kadmeil, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani, and cried with a loud voice unto the Lord our God. And the Levites said, even Jeshua and Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah, Stand up and let them praise thy glorious Name, O God, which excelleth above all thanksgiving and praise. Thou art Lord alone: thou hast made heaven, and the heaven of all heaviness, with all their host, the earth, and all things thar are therein, the seas, and all that are in them and thou preservest them all and the host of the heaven worshippeth thee. Thou art, O Lord, the God, that hast chosen Abram, and broughtest him out of Ur in Chaldeans, and madest his name Abraham. And foundest his heart faithful before thee, and madest a Covenant with him, to give unto his seed the land of the Canaanites, Hitites, Amorites, and Perizzites, and Jebusites, and Girgashites, and hast performed thy words, because thou art just. Thou hast also considered the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heard their cry by the red Sea, And showed tokens and wonders upon Pharaoh, and on all his servants, and on all the people of his land: for thou knewest that they dealt proudly against them: therefore thou madest thee a Name, as appeareth this day. For thou didst break up the Sea before them, and they went throught the midst of the sea on dry land: and those that pursued them, hast thou cast into the bottoms as a stone, in the mighty waters: Ad leddest them into the day with a pillar of a cloud, and in the night with a pillar of fire to give them light in the way that they went. Thou camest down unto them thine holy Sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, and ordinances, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant. And gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst: and promisedst them that they should go in, and take possession of the land: for the which thou hadst lifted up thine hand for to give them. But they and our fathers behaved themselves proudly and hardened their neck, so that they hearkened not unto thy Commandments, But refused to obey, and would not remember thy marvelous works that thou hadst done for them, but hardened their necks, and had in their heads to return to their bondage by their rebellion: but thou, O God of mercies, gracious and full of compassion, of long-suffering, and of great mercy, yet forsookest them not. Moreover, when they made them a molten calf (and said, This is thy God that brought thee up out of the land of Egypt) and committed great blasphemies, Yet thou for thy great mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day to lead them the way, neither the pillar of fire by night, to show them light, and the way whereby they should go. Thou gavest also thy good Spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy Manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst. Thou didst also feed them forty years in the wilderness: they lacked nothing: their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not. And thou gavest them kingdoms and people, and scatteredst them into corners: so they possessed the land of Sihon, and the land of the king of Heshbon, and the land of Og king of Bashan. And thou didst multiply their children like the stars of the heaven, and broughtest them into the land, whereof thou hadst spoken unto their fathers, that they should go, and possess it. So the children went in, and possessed the land, and thou subduedst before them the inhabitants of the land, even the Canaanites, and gavest them into their hands, with their kings and the people of the land, that they might do with them what they would. And they took their strong cities and the far land, and possessed houses full of all goods, cisterns dug out, vineyards and olives, and trees for food in abundance, and they did eat, and were filled, and became fat, and lived in pleasure through thy great goodness. Yet they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy Law behind their backs, and slew thy Prophets (which protested among them to turn them unto thee) and committed great blasphemies. Therefore thou deliveredst them into the hand of their enemies that vexed them: yet in the time of their affliction, when they cried unto thee, thou heardest them from the heaven, and through thy great mercies thou gavest them saviors, who saved them out of the hand of their adversaries. But when they had rest, they returned to do evil before thee: therefore leftest thou them in the hand oftheir enemies, so that they had the dominon over them, yet when they converted and cried unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven, and deliveredst them acording to thy great mercies many times, And protestedst among them, that thou mightest bring them again unto thy Law: but they behaved themselves proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments (which a man should do and live in them) and pulled away the shoulder, and were stiff-necked, and would not hear. Yet thou didst forbear them many years, and protestedst among them by thy Spirit, even by the hand of thy Prophets, but they would not hear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands. Yet for thy great mercies thou hast not consumed them, neither forsaken them: for thou art a gracious and merciful God. Now therefore our God, thou great God, mighty and terrible, that keepest covenant and mercy, let not all the affliction that hath come unto us, seem a little before thee, that is, to our Kings, and our Princes, and to our Priests, and to our Prophets, and to our fathers, and to all thy people since the time of the kings of Assyria unto this day. Surely thou art just in all that is come upon us: for thou hast dealt truly, but we have done wickedly. And our kings and our princes, our priests and our fathers have not done thy Law, nor regarded thy commandments, nor thy protestations, wherewith thou hast protested among them. And they have not served thee in their kingdom, and in thy great goodness that thou showedst unto them, and in the large and fat land which thou didst set before them, and have not converted from their evil works. Behold, we are servants this day, and the land that thou gavest unto our fathers, to eat the fruit thereof, and the goodness thereof, behold, we are servants therein. And it yieldeth much fruit unto the kings whom thou hast set over us, because of our sins: and they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle at their pleasure, and we are in great affliction. Now because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it, and our princes, our Levites, and our Priests seal unto it. Nehemiah 9:1–10:27
- And he that was healed, knew not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away from the multitude that was in that place. And after that, Jesus found him in the Temple, and said unto them, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus that had made him whole. And therefore the Jews did persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the Sabbath day. 1 John 5:13–16
- I will praise the Lord with my whole heart in the assembly and the congregation of teh just. The works of the Lord are great, and ought to be sought out of all them that love them. His work is beautiful and glorious, and his righteousness endureth forever. He hath made his wonderful works to be had in remembrance: the Lord is merciful and full of compassion. He hath given a portion unto them that fear him: he will ever be mindful of his covenant. He hath showed to his people the power of his works, in giving unto them the heritage of the heathen. The works of his hands are truth and judgment: all his statutes are true. They are established forever nad ever, and are done in truth and equity. He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant forever: holy and fearful is his Name. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord: all they that observe them, have good understanding: his praise endureth forever. Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, and delighteth greatly in his commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the righteous ariseth light in darkness: he is merciful, and lendeth, and will measure his affairs by judgment. Surely he shall never be moved: but the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance. He will not be afraid of evil tidings: for his heart is fixed, and believeth in the Lord. His heart is established: therefore he will not fear, until he see his desire upon his enemies. He hath distributed and given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth forever: his horn shall be exalted with glory. The wicked shall see it, and be angry: he shall gnash with his teeth, and consume away: the desire of the wicked shall perish. Psalm 111:1–112:10